A dog story!

January 4, 2012

J cosy at home with the vacuum cleaner!

I wanted to share with you one of the responses I have had from the last blog, it is the real stories of dog owners out there that need to be heard! I am sure the people with the dogs rushing up to ours don’t really want to upset our dogs, they just don’t know the impact they are having! Please send in your story?

“I wanted to agree with what you’ve said. You may remember J – chocolate lab with epilepsy, very nervously aggressive around other dogs after being attacked a couple of times by off the lead dogs when he was a puppy just after he started having fits. Sadly and the aggression / anxiety around other dogs just got worse with age. Training didn’t help, and eventually I took the decision to let him have a happy life away from other dogs. He is off the lead only in large, deserted fields. On the lead problems only arise if an off-the-lead dog comes up to us. I see a dog off the lead I call to the owner to get them to call their dog back before trouble starts, then walk in the opposite direction. This, amazingly, doesn’t always work, and about half the time I get a “oh, he just wants to play” response and the owner virtually encourages their dog to come to mine!

I have since found lots of other dog owners in the same position as me: we are often made to feel guilty about not letting our dogs off the lead around other dogs, or not having other “doggy friends”. It really is a bit much! When I walk J, I end up having to shout at other people’s dogs to get them away from him. Walking dogs off the lead with a “he / she won’t hurt your dog, they just want to play!” comment is totally irresponsible. Your off-the-lead dog may well want to play, but mine doesn’t! My dog is terrified of anything on four legs and is a nervous wreck if anything gets within 10 feet of him. I had some classes from you about this, where you advised me to shout at the approaching off-the-lead dog and walk the other way. This almost always works, but I end up with plenty of abuse from the other dog’s owner. My dog is only ever aggressive when other dogs approach him, and I want to protect him and these other dogs from each other. If dogs stayed on the lead around other dogs, it would be so much easier and dog on dog attacks would be much rarer.

Unless owners have absolute control over their own dog off the lead (and in my own experience, that is rare as hen’s teeth!), dogs should be on the lead around other dogs. It is, frankly, arrogant to make the assumption that your dog won’t attack mine, or be attacked by mine: they don’t know each other and you don’t know my dog. Thank you for making this a New Year’s Resolution, and I hope everybody follows the advice.”


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Dog training classes have an issue that other evening class don’t experience, at least not that I know of? How many soft furnishing course tutor’s have students ring them to say, “I can’t get there this week, can I send my husband instead”? Or cookery tutor’s asked “I am poorly, is it okay if my son/brother/aunt/neighbour comes this week”? ūüôā I know you are smiling now! But however often I tell people that they are the ones learning, they still think the dog is being trained! And yes I have had a request for all of the above surrogates to bring the puppy to class!

I know that Mum’s get fed up with taking responsibility for everything domestic, believing that at least someone could get involved with training the puppy! The reality is it really is the handler I train, and this dog training lark is a skill, it is learning to communicate with another species and teach them to be obedient and good mannered! In fact the more people involved in¬† the training the more¬† the process is slowed down! For every person involved in the training, the poor puppy has to learn yet another set of physical and verbal commands, how hard is that?

The truth is that if one person takes on the job of training the family pet it will all work out fine, promise! The dog gets trained faster, everyone in the house gets to learn through observation, (there is nothing like a bit of successful dog training to get everyone mimicking the able dog trainer). I have witnessed first hand how, when my clients stop wanting involvement from the rest of the family and get on with the job themselves, success comes rapidly, the dog suddenly starts to get it! As a result the rest of the family want to walk or train the dog, because they are a joy to take out!

These photo’s feature the Thursday class, theyhave taken on all the training and are very successful in their dog training!

Edna and HarleySid is perfect!


Badger and Lucky

Not watership down!

September 6, 2011

It is sadly that time of year when the rabbits have Mixie again! I luckily saw Betty “playing” with a mixie rabbit in the garden this week, lucky because I was able to let her know that I didn’t like her doing that! I would have liked to have put the poor creature out of its misery, but sadly I cannot find that ability in me.

There was no way I want Betty to learn how to kill any creature, she won’t know the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy one. Plus once she learns to enjoy the kill her recall for me would be come unreliable and I would be concerned that she could end up chasing a rabbit across a road! by seeing the bigger picture I can avoid creating problems later on.

By viewing all dog behaviour through a magnifying glass many of the dog behaviours I am asked to help with never have the chance to develop!

Butter wouldn't melt!

Nessa learning retrieve!

What a good girl!

Last week was a really busy fun week! Wednesday saw the first of my walks in Highlands Park with a group, we were lucky with the weather, only a shower as we were drinking our coffee in the park café afterwards, in the afternoon there was torrential rain all over Essex for a good 2 hours! Five dogs and handlers came along, Fiona with her deaf Westie, Paddy was particular brave when in the bigger group! Paddy has problems in wide open spaces, I am sure he is overwhelmed and scared as he cannot hear approaching danger, it was interesting to see how being in a pack gave him confidence, it wasn’t until Fiona and I were walking back to the car park (we had managed to park in the wrong car park!) that we saw the very behaviour that Fiona had come to address, Paddy going into panic mode in an open space! It was lucky we had parked in the wrong place as we had time to address the behaviour on the way back to the car, how is he doing now Fiona?

The walk seemed a great success and the handlers and dogs had a great time! It was suggested I run the walks as a regular event so you will get a chance to come along, if you have a great park near you and would like me to run a walk there please let me know and I will do my best!

Friday was BBC Essex with Steve Scruton; if you missed the show you can still catch it on the iplayer on the BBC Essex Radio web site. As usual it was a fun session, with loads of telephone calls, texts and emailed questions!

Saturday was the behaviour course day; I broke with my usual format and had 2 dogs present, both suffering from inappropriate barking at home. I think this is a format I will use again; having dogs present for us to work on gave the day some real focus and a great learning opportunity for all present. So thank you to Debbie for bringing Louis Pomeranian and Fiona with Westie Molly! How are they doing at home now? Debbie had treated her friend Beverley as a birthday present and as a result the day had a festive atmosphere, which must have come from the birthday cake and candles!! George came all the way from Athens, currently working as a counsellor; George is looking to expand his current practice to helping people with dogs, starting off as a dog walker as he studies and gains experience. It was a great mix of dogs and people and I had a really good time! J

Seedy time of year!

June 16, 2011

With all the dry weather it feels like wild seed-time has come round faster than ever! Tracey and her dogs reminded me this week, as her 2 Grand Griffon Basset Vendeen, and yes this breed looks just like the one in the photo! Mungo and Milly have the type of coat that acts as a magnet to grass and other wild seeds, one quick shake of those long ears can rapidly catapult a seed deep into the ear canal! Resulting in a trip to the vet and anesthetic to remove the offending seed! So far Tracey has had 4 trips to the Vet in 4 weeks, a very expensive time of year! All this despite avoiding any off lead walks and avoiding as much long grass as possible. I think some dogs just have ears  that act as funnels for seeds!

As a result Tracey has found a way of fending off some seeds with some stylish head wear!

Do keep an eye on your pets and seeds a few tips are:

  • a quick brush following a walk to remove seeds before they find their way in deeper
  • if your breed needs clipping keep them very short this time of year
  • if your pet seems off colour or doesn’t seem keen on you touching his ear get them checked at the Vet, the ear canal is very deep and the lower part is not visible with the naked eye.
  • Seeds and thorns can work their way in between toes, causing sores or worse, so keep feet groomed and clipped.

Comment from Teresa!

July 8, 2010

Hi Avril,

I just had to let you know how much I have been enjoying the progress of Betty, she is adorable, the daily updates you are giving are brilliant, if I did at sometime in the future be fortunate enough to have a puppy I would feel much more prepared and able to cope from some of the knowledge you have given.

These daily blog’s have made compelling reading and I am alway’s looking in my inbox for the next one to come in, it’s almost like reading a very good book and not being able to put it down so thank you Avril.

I have tried to submit a comment but I keep getting a response which says YOU DID NOT SUCCEED PLEASE TRY AGAIN WITH A VALID EMAIL ADDRESS despite using my email address which is valid, I have to say I am not very good when it comes to IT so it could me doing something silly.

Thanks once again for all the Blog’s keep them coming Avril and well done With best regards Teresa

Thank you for your kind comments Teresa, it is great to get feedback, it encourages me:) I am not sure why you can’t post, but you are not the first one to say this, anyone else having problems? I will get on to WordPress and see if I can find out why and get back to you! I do know that commenting direct from the mail isn’t working, can you try logging on the site and trying again Teresa?

There are some days when I find it so easy to see how troublesome behaviour can start, even as a dog trainer I could easily get things wrong, and do!

Last week Betty had her vaccinations, I was a little concerned for a day or two as her tummy was a bit upset and she was a little quieter than normal,¬† Friday night she woke me just after midnight vomiting and I was sure I would be taking her to the Vet Saturday morning! I had withheld her fourth meal on the friday because her tummy wasn’t right and having spoken to Annie, her breeder, we agreed I was likely over feeding her, I usually do with my puppies, which shows itself with diarrhea!

Come saturday morning, Betty was back on full form, her energy level was back to normal and her appetite enormous, I gave her a very small breakfast to check out how her tummy was and all was fine and back to normal! How quickly little puppy’s can go from ill to okay!

Now it is hard to tell which was the issue the vaccinations or me over feeding, or both! She is the greediest puppy I have had, even more so than Pie, though only just! Having missed a meal she was sure her throat had been cut and she was starving, eating every bit of rubbish in the garden, so now her hunger could lead to her eating something really harmful! On Sunday I took her for a little walk by the lake near me and she soon found some left over crab pincers (I guess the fishermen use crab meat for bait?), now I am sure this couldn’t be great for a puppies tummy, I did my best to distract her with my tit bits but she was not convinced and finally I had to take it off her. I avoid taking anything food like off of my puppies always, unless it is really dangerous, and I must admit crab pincers are a new one on me.The reason I avoid this so much is because of how puppies learn, if you can imagine in the wild a puppy simply learns what is desirable to eat by whether the other animals want it or eat it, and taking anything away for a puppy means in the puppies eyes we are eating it! Therefore the more any of us take undesirable stuff off of our puppies the more they learn to think this very thing is desirable! I have seen this to such extremes that dogs eat the most unnatural and dangerous items.

So now I have a very hungry puppy and the added danger of her eating more unhealthy rubbish, though the dogs stomach is designed to cope with extreme bacteria! Having returned Betty to the house, Pie and I went out to the lake with rubbish bags, one over my hand, not just to avoid the bacteria but also to avoid leaving my scent in the area the crab bits have been, (Betty would then associate my scent and the crab bits) to clear this unusual rubbish up! Interestingly Pie was not at all interested in the pincers but then I guess he wasn’t exposed to them as a puppy so does not think of them as food!

The tummy issues caused more problems with Betty’s house training, we had got into a good routine, I knew for the most part when she would need to go and as a result her house training was coming along brilliantly, with the variation in her diet and her upset tummy her toilet routine has gone out the window as a result I am out of sync and we have had more accidents indoors, not Betty’s fault as she was not able to go out side so had little choice!

Now I am doing the best I can to fill her up without overfeeding her and rediscover her toilet times!

Betty eating harmless rubbish! Better known as exploring her options!

For those that didn’t have the chance to listen in on Friday 18th June the BBC iPlayer means that you can do so anytime you like before Friday this week!

Mave at reception at BBC Essex Radio

Steve Scruton was away on holiday so this time I was on air with Mark Punter, a really nice guy who put me at ease very quickly! Mark seems very laid back but if you could see all the jobs he has to juggle in the studio it is hard to imagine that he feels laid back ūüôā We had some great phone calls, the lines were very busy, I know that severeal people failed to get through, flattering for me but disappointing for them.

Do let me know what you think? Go to BBC Essex home page and click listen now, for some reason I do not seem able to insert the link into the post today!

“Just a¬†query as you know I don’t now go out as a behaviourist anymore just get the odd question posed by close friends and family members, but my niece has asked me a question, they have¬†recently moved to a house with a pool, they have an 18 month old cocker bitch, not spayed, whenever a member of the family is in the pool the dog is frantic, obviously it is worried that the person in the pool is going to drown, the dog does not jump in just runs round either barking or crying, if they put the dog indoors and continue she cries as she is obviously¬†trying to look after the family and make sure they are not coming to any harm. I just wonder if you have come across this before, if it were a golden it would be in the pool with the person and enjoying itself, so it’s not one I have come across before, I would say leave the dog indoors before they even go into the pool, but I suppose they would feel that was unfair and want the dog in the garden with them, but my thoughts are if the dog doesn’t know what is going on then it’s not going to get worried as to what is happening to one¬†of the family

Jacquie Smallcombe”


Good to hear from you Jacquie I agree with you, I would leave the puppy indoors, age will help the dog to understand better, I would add that I think the noise is about the dog wanting to get to them and being frightened of the water, so the conflict of wanting to get to them and not wanting to go in the water. In time the dog would go in the water, they could hasten this by sitting in a shallow part of the pool near the edge, the dog is likely to venture in with some encouragement. Should they not wish the dog in the pool though, leave in doors for now.

I would add a thought too, I have had a few reports of dogs getting under pool covers in the winter and sadly drowning, so just make them aware of this should the dog get to like going in.

Best wishes Avril

This warning comes from the USA, but my guess is it will be just a matter of time before this becomes an issue here. We can learn from their mistakes hopefully!

Please ¬†tell ¬†every dog or cat owner you know. Even if ¬†you don’t have a pet, ¬†please pass this to those ¬†who do.
Over the weekend, ¬†¬†the doting owner of two young lab mixes ¬†purchased Cocoa Mulch ¬†from Target to ¬†use in their garden. The dogs loved the way ¬†¬†it smelled and it was advertised to ¬†keep cats away from ¬†their garden. Their dog ¬†(Calypso) decided the mulch smelled good ¬†enough ¬†to eat and devoured a large ¬†helping. ¬†She vomited a few ¬†times which was typical ¬†when she eats something ¬†new but wasn’t acting lethargic in any way. ¬†The ¬†next day, Mom woke up and took ¬†¬†Calypso out for her morning ¬†walk . Half way ¬†through the walk, she had a seizure and died instantly.
Although the mulch had NO warnings printed on the label, ¬†¬†upon further investigation on the company’s web site,
this product is HIGHLY toxic to  dogs  and cats.
Cocoa Mulch is manufactured by Hershey’s, ¬†and they claim that “It is true that studies have shown that 50% ¬†of the dogs that eat Cocoa Mulch can suffer ¬†physical ¬†harm ¬†to a variety of ¬†degrees (depending on each individual dog). ¬†¬†However, 98% of all dogs won’t eat ¬†¬†it.”
*Snopes site gives  the following  information:http://www.snopes.com/critters/crusader/cocoamulch.asp *
Cocoa Mulch, ¬†which is sold by Home Depot, Foreman’s ¬†¬†Garden Supply and other Garden supply ¬†stores contains a ¬†lethal ingredient called ‘Theobromine’. It ¬†is lethal to dogs and ¬†cats. It smells li ke ¬†chocolate and it really ¬†attracts dogs. They will ingest this stuff ¬†and ¬†die. Several deaths already occurred in the last ¬†2-3 ¬†weeks.
Theobromine is in ¬†¬†all chocolate, especially dark or baker’s ¬†chocolate which is ¬†toxic to dogs. Cocoa bean ¬†shells contain potentially toxic ¬†quantities of theobromine, ¬†¬†a xanthine compound ¬†¬†similar in effects to caffeine and theophylline. ¬†A dog that ¬†ingested a lethal quantity of garden ¬†mulch made from cacao bean ¬†shells ¬†developed severe convulsions ¬†¬†and died 17 hours later. Analysis of the stomach ¬†contents and ¬†the ingested cacao bean shells ¬†revealed the presence of lethal ¬†amounts of theobromine.